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30th September 2005 at 01:00
The success of Write Away is based on three main principles aimed at encouraging and supporting children's writing. In order to write children need:

* something to write about

* writing skills

* an audience Something to write about

The theme of Write Away is autobiography. Everyone has a story to tell. By focusing on events, people or places from their own experience, all young people can find something to write about.

Autobiographical writing enables them to find a personal voice and to experiment with a range of content, language and styles. The following five pieces provide stimulus for discussion, analysis and writing and give models which demonstrate a variety of content, styles and linguistic features. They will all benefit from being read aloud and discussed. Oral work, drama, the use of photographs and props and the reading of other examples of autobiography all provide important stimulus for pupils'

writing.

Writing skills

Once children have shared, discussed and thought about what they are going to write, they need to concentrate on developing their ideas into a structured, interesting and effective piece of writing. The support of teachers is critical at this stage. Using the pieces provided as models and looking at the techniques used by these writers will help children to understand the linguistic features of autobiographical writing. Many of the activities suggested are aimed at developing active approaches to the texts, which make the learning explicit and encourage pupils to analyse the writer's techniques and the role of the reader.

Specific support is required as pupils produce their own pieces. They need time and encouragement to do the best work possible. Through a structured approach to exploring autobiographical writing and developing writing skills, pupils should be encouraged to ask questions such as: how am I going to bring this incident alive for my readers? What kind of writing is it going to be - a letter, a journal entry, a narrative, a reflective piece? What kind of language will I use? They will need to decide what style, vocabulary, dialogue, description and imagery they should use and whether they should write in the present or past tense.

Planning, composing and drafting are important stages in the writing process. Children need supportive listeners and readers throughout. When they are revising they need to hear what their writing sounds like and to observe what reactions it receives from the reader. At the revising, redrafting and proof-reading stages the young writers need to focus on fine-tuning particular effects and techniques and on the importance of accuracy and appropriateness. Correcting work-in-progress can be part of a discussion about the importance of developing writing in stages. If children experience difficulty in structuring what they want to say, writing frames, prompts and specific activities which focus on the use of structure in autobiographical writing, such as those published, can be very effective.

An audience

Real writing needs a real audience. Selected winners of the competition will have their entries published in The Times Educational Supplement and on The TES website. Within schools children's writing can be shared and displayed in a variety of ways and used as a stimulus for many of the activities described in the following pages.

The Write Away pieces can be used independently of the competition to provide a valuable resource for reading literary non-fiction and meeting the framework objectives of the Secondary Strategy and English national curriculum. But having encouraged the children to write with a clear purpose and for a real audience, why not make entering the competition an additional goal? Give your pupils the opportunity to write away!

* Teaching ideas by Ruth Moore, deputy head at Hasland Hall Community School, Derbyshire

* Pull-out edited by Heather Neill and designed by Trevor Wilson Design

* Cover illustration by Ross Dearsley Note: Many of the approaches suggested in the following pages are aimed at making learning explicit and developing young people's analytical, creative and writing skills. They will be most effective when placed within a detailed, structured scheme of work, examples of which can be found in NATE Drama Packs, which have been distributed to all schools as part of the Secondary Strategy's programme of support.

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